Tag Archives: Punjabi

Master Class with the Master Chefs

It is a tough act to get me out of my personal space on a weekend. But when the subjects are ‘Kings of Kitchen’ and sources of inspiration, it is certainly worth the trouble. And so, on a weekend, 4 boys met up whose lives are ruled by the “F-word” – FOOD.

Moi, Ranveer Brar, Vicky and Vikas Khanna
Moi, Ranveer Brar, Vicky and Vikas Khanna

My colleague and I were delighted to welcome master chefs Ranveer Brar and Michelin-starred Vikas Khanna. Both, tall, dark and handsome with brooding looks. Do not be fooled by that tough, stern exterior; for lurking behind those piercing eyes, bubbles some serious wit and Punjabi humour. Greeting everybody with a Cheshire cat grin was Chef Ranveer Brar, looking very dapper in his ochre trousers and jacket.

Vikas Khanna - working in 2 different time zones
Vikas Khanna – working in 2 different time zones

Vikas walked in clutching his Macbook, almost as if we would confiscate it. He confessed his commitments on both sides of the Atlantic. A stickler for deadlines, Vikas is known to spend a lot of time on his laptop so that he can stay connected with his team, publishers and others that matter.

Vikas Khanna - 2 books in the offing
Vikas Khanna – 2 books in the offing

Of his myriad projects, Vikas is working on 2 books. One, he claims to be the costliest book ever that encapsulates 12 years of his work. And the other is a book that is dedicated to his inspiration, His Holiness The Dalai Lama. As the world leader of peace turns 80, Vikas has posed 80 questions to The Dalai Lama that his fans routed through the chef. Vikas has met His Holiness 16 times.

Because he is Vikas Khanna
Because he is Vikas Khanna

Chef Vikas Khanna is extremely popular on social media. Blame it on his meteoric rise, being labelled the ‘sexiest man’ or the ‘hottest chef’ or the fact that at 43, he still retains his boyish charms and can be called a ‘beeba munda’ in Punjabi. Women swoon at the mere mention of Vikas Khanna. His colleague, Chef Ranveer Brar was quick to point out that the

Ranveer Brar teasing Vikas Khanna
Ranveer Brar teasing Vikas Khanna

number of women on Twitter with Vikas as their display picture is perhaps more than that of Brad Pitt. And their staunch following can only be believed when you try it. Write out a tweet @TheVikasKhanna and watch it go viral! While Ranveer took jabs, Vikas only kept smiling coyly! Here are some quick takes:

Chef Ranveer Brar
Chef Ranveer Brar

Chef Ranveer Brar started a Franco-Asian restaurant in Boston called ‘Banq’. A clever name, if you ask me! Ranveer’s only regret is that he could not cook for his grandmother. As a boy, Ranveer used to ask his sister to hold a make-believe microphone as he would practice ‘hosting’ his TV show watching Chef Sanjeev Kapoor’s TV shows.

Michelin-starred Chef Vikas Khanna
Michelin-starred Chef Vikas Khanna

Vikas Khanna was once asked to smile several times by a 70-year-old woman who thought his smile was similar to her deceased son’s. She lost her son in a car crash. Vikas, thereafter, promised to always smile. If possible, Vikas would love to open up a Tibetan food stall in Dubai. His obvious inspiration comes the land and people that gave him refuge when he lost all his restaurants. Vikas always wanted to open a restaurant in Paris but the process is rather back-breaking. Now with his NY restaurant Junoon opening a branch in Dubai, he seems to have happily settled for ‘marhaba’ than ‘merci’!

The master chefs had us in splits with their witty humour
The master chefs had us in splits with their witty humour

Vikas and Ranveer are happy that a chef is now readily accepted as a profession. Otherwise, people only cared to ask for the chef on 2 occasions – either to complain of excessive salt or to ask where the bathroom is! To hear the madness that enfolded in the studio, listen to the interview podcast here: http://www.suno1024.com/podcast-list/albums/69

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Chāt It Up!

Chat. Or Chāt. This simple, 4 letter word, finds a huge resonance in the lives of most South Asians. The first usage would be in English and the second would be in Hindi (or Urdu). Truth is, no Indian or Pakistani, can ever survive without either.

The CHAAT of good times
The CHAAT of good times

This is no occasion to discuss the English meaning, so we steer over to the vernacular connotations of ‘chāt’. Chāt is a culture. It is about the times when people are out, no matter what the barometer reads, to stuff their faces with their favourite chāt. A good chāt goes a long way in cementing relationships, finding new love, downing after-office hunger pangs and getting over boredom. A chāt centre is also a study of brand building – be it in the way the cart owner greets new customers or by giving a little something extra to repeat customers. Remember, your local chāt-waley bhaiyya? You might not remember his name, but you still remember him as chāt-waley bhaiyya! That is branding and recall!

A good chāt can define a person, shop, locality, and city even. If you don’t believe me, as any Indori about their chāt locality called ‘Chhappan’ and brace up to not talk for the next 20 minutes because you are salivating like Garfield in front of canned tuna.

The humble chāt is a tasty mix of flavours and spices, hot and cold textures, sweet and savoury and has many, shall we say, variations to it. A chāt menu can be very exhaustive and more challenging than an agency copy test. For those that know, salivate thinking of aloo tikka chat, papdi chaat, dahi bhalla, gol gappey, sev puri, bhel puri, jhaal moori! It’s just scratching the top, really. In fact nobody has considered it seriously but there is a chāt critic in all South Asians. We are the same commentators who feel that Sachin Tendulkar should have hit the ball a little to the off-side; and the tamarind chutney in the chāt is not tangy enough.

The experience of eating chāt starts long before a loaded plate is handed over. It begins with the customer peering over to see all the ingredients laid out, in invitation. Sorry Subway, move over; we’ve been at it since Adam’s. Then it is the magic of the person who loads up goodies on the plate and sprinkles different masalas with more aplomb than Emiril. Bam! Swirl on some spicy, tangy chutney, throw on some ginger juliennes and there you have it – the perfect plate of chāt.

That modest chāt assumes different hues of taste and flavour as one travels across the length and breadth of India. Newer items get added to the family of chat. Sometimes, popular chāt items get known in 3 or 4 different names. Of course there are epicurean critics who can theorise the difference in anatomy of a Bengali ‘phuchka’ to that of a Punjabi ‘gol-gappe’ over its Western poor cousin ‘pani puri’. So you see, getting together a plate of chāt right, is perhaps, tougher than pleasing Gordon Ramsey. Should you find anybody who can make the perfect chāt, marry the person!

One of the first things I was looking for when I landed in Dubai was a good chāt. My search took long with many trials, re-trials and tribulations. I am listing down the top 5 places where you can get a good chāt.

My recommendations are:

  1. Elco Chat Center in Karama for Pani Puri. Bengali’s might want to drive till the border of Sharjah for some ‘Phuchka’ at Calcutta Fast Food.
  2. Chatori Galli for some North Indian style treats like Papdi Chaat, Raj Kachodi and Jalebi Chaat.
  3. Urban Tadka (Karama / Discovery Gardens) for Bhel Puri, Sev Puri, Ragda Pattice and Pani Puri with Ragda.
  4. Puranmal for Vada Pao, Aloo Bonda.
  5. Bombay Chowpatty for Samosa Chaat, Dahi Bade, Papdi Chaat.

Now, if the desi in you is doing a jig because you are yearning that sunshine back home with street feasts and unending hours of fun while hot cups of ‘chai’ keep arriving along with piping hot samosas and vada paos, then, this is news for you.

The first-ever Masala Food Fair is here. 2 days of desi picnics, street-eats, and restaurant favourites, celebrity-sighting (Raveena Tandon promises to show up – wipe that gravy) and live cooking demo by celebrity chef Sanjeev Kapoor! Save the dates – 20th and 21st of February at Zabeel Park, Dubai. Log on to masala.com/foodfair for more or look up #MasalaFoodFair on Twitter.

You will probably spot me there with a spoon in hand. See you there!

PS: my auto correct has resigned. It couldn’t agree with all the desi street eats thrown in here!

Also featured on Masala Magazine Online: http://www.masala.com/masala-food-fair-special-5-places-in-dubai-that-serve-best-chats-188871.html